Established to care for neglected and abandoned animals, shelters have been in service for nearly 150 years in the U.S. Although these institutions provide a kind service, there is often little funding, and they rank with less priority among the majority population. As a result, they can take on an appearance of neglect. Often times, these institutions conjure imagery of dank, dirty and lonely kennels. The Westside German Shepherd Rescue in Los Angeles, CA, has made an effort to change the mold of the out-dated, run-down look of some shelters, creating a cozy “re-homing” facility for dogs to stay and a comfortable space for potential adopters to visit.

When given the opportunity to turn a one-story, 9,000-square-foot warehouse space into a shelter for German Shepherds, it was decided that this will be a different kind of facility that will serve to not only shelter, but nurture. Rania Alomar of RA-DA Architects in West Hollywood, CA, was chosen to design the facility. “The goal for the project was to create a new kind of environment surrounding the adoption of pets,” explained Alomar. To allow for more space in the shelter, a second story was added, increasing the square footage to 10,800. “This environment would encourage the idea of ‘re-homing,’” the designer continued. “Rather than rescuing an abandoned animal, the patron is adopting it from one home into another home, hence the residential aesthetic for the facility. We strove for a unique level of comfort and sophistication for the animals, the staff and the visitors.”

Choosing the right product

Considering the practical demands that a dog shelter may face, durability and cleanliness were both factors when the flooring was chosen. “We used ceramic tile in all the public areas, such as the front entry, lounge and community room, and also in the main boardwalk that leads to the kennel ‘cottages’ and restrooms,” said Alomar. “We also used tile in the downstairs evaluation rooms where visitors have consultants with the facility staff and the staff break room and office upstairs.”

The tile chosen to use on the main floor was Kerlite Oaks in the colors “Fossil” and “Rains.” In the smaller rooms and upstairs, Kerlite Buxy was chosen in “Cendre.” Both of these tiles were manufactured by Cotto d’Este and distributed through SpecCeramics, Inc. “This is a ceramic thin tile ideal for refurbishing spaces, as it is only 3.5 mm thick and can be installed on existing floors,” explained Alomar. “The aesthetic of the tile is quite residential in quality with a light running grain in it so that it almost looks like a wood product.

“The challenge in finding the right tile for this project was that the facility bridges two very opposing needs,” the designer continued. “Its utilitarian nature required that we use a flooring material that was easy to clean and durable, but the aesthetic goal of the facility was to create a home-like environment. A seamless epoxy would have fulfilled the utilitarian needs but not the aesthetic needs, and a wood floor would have fulfilled the aesthetic but not the utilitarian. The tile that we found managed to do both.”

The installation

According to the architect, the tile comes in large slabs measuring 40 x 118 inches. “We cut the large slab down into six pieces — each measuring 3 feet, 3 inches x 1 foot, 7 inches — and laid them in a running bond pattern on the ground. Its added advantage is that the seams between the tiles can be extremely small, minimizing grout and making maintenance and cleaning much easier.”

The installation of the tile was done by Wallach’s Commercial Flooring, Inc. of Lake Forest, CA. They sent in a group of 6 to 8 installers for this job, with the total time of the tile installation taking about three weeks.

While the thin tile has its advantages for this project, it also posed a slight challenge to the installers. “One of the biggest challenges was getting the corners to stay down on these thin, flat tiles,” explained Shane Wenger of Wallach’s Commercial Flooring, Inc. “The very ends of the corners were lifting a bit, so we used the thin-set bags and buckets of water placed at the corners of each tile as we went along the way.”

Another of the challenges posed during the installation was the staircase that was also tiled. “The stairs were a good challenge for us to complete,” explained Wenger. “No one had ever attempted to cover stairs with this material before. We had to ensure that the surface had a good, flexible, but solid, subsurface to provide a bond for the tile. They used plywood for the stairs, and we attached a moisture vapor protection as well as an anti-fracture membrane before installing the tile to the stairs.

“Very difficult to do, but was well thought through by [us],” he went on to say. “[It] looks great. I do think that this was one of the unique aspects of the job.”

With the completion of the installation, the mission and the vision of the Westside German Shepherd Rescue have been realized. “The facility has really marked a new era in shelter design,” said Alomar. “The client was extremely happy with the outcome.” And it is probably safe to say that the dogs are pleased also.

Installation Details
Installer: Wallach’s Commercial Flooring, Inc., Lake Forest, CA
Designer: RA-DA Architects, West Hollywood, CA
Tile Manufacturer: Cotto d’Este
Tile Distributor: SpecCeramics, Fullerton, CA

Number of Installers: 6 to 8
Installation Time: 3 weeks